I don't know how you do it but each holiday I do seems to be better than the last. Doing the challenge was really great with the difficulty ramping up as the week progressed. I'm already looking forward to doing another trip next year.
Corsica is a stunning island to explore on two wheels, and this itinerary is the favourite of many of the Marmot team. It offers all the essential ingredients for a fabulous cycling holiday: mountains, coastline, historic ports and towns, sunshine and warm scented breezes. Add a splash of Corsican culture and this holiday really does have it all! This flexible route road cycling holiday showcases Corsica’s highlights with far reaching sea views, peaceful roads, beautiful climbs and of course excellent support from two Marmot guides and support vans.
Like all our flexible-route, flexible-pace holidays, we have designed a Classic route that can be taken steadily and is manageable and enjoyable for healthy cyclists, regardless of experience in the mountains. However, this holiday also offers a fantastic challenge to those wanting to push themselves further: each day there are optional extra loops and climbs, increasing the possible daily stats to around 140km per day with 2100 to 3300m of climbing on our Challenge route.
In case you’re wondering “what’s the difference between Sardinia and Corsica?”, we posted a blog to answer this question (in two parts, in fact – there was a lot to say!). Both Part I & Part II are a great read and we hope it helps you decide which of these Mediterranean isles is best for you and your two wheels. If you are a fit cyclist who has already done a Raid challenge, then you may also be interested in our Raid Corsica.
It is important to us that you book the correct holiday, so do download and read the Trip Notes for all you need on how this holiday works, food, accommodation & travel…
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts off the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% early bookers discount
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 7.5% group discount and, as the group organiser, receive a £150 voucher for your next holiday
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Arrival day
We offer included airport transfers at scheduled times from Bastia Airport (BIA) to our start hotel in Pietranera, Bastia (45min). You also have to option of arriving by ferry from mainland France (Nice or Toulon) or Italy.
Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.
Meet your guides, assemble bikes and for those of you on early flights, there is the option of going for a warm-up ride up the Col de Teghime (522m). Alternatively, you can head to the beach or take a short bus ride into the historic town to enjoy the cafés! Get together in the evening for a trip briefing and a hearty dinner.
Day 1: Bastia to St-Florent
You start your Corsica adventure by cycling around the unique and beautiful Cap Corse. This has to be one of the most stunning roads to cycle in Europe. It undulates its way along the coast, linking sheltered coves for 30km to the fishing village of Macinaggio. You then cross over the Col de la Serra (365m) to the west coast. This side of the peninsula is dramatically different and the road stays high, linking hilltop villages and commanding great views.
Your destination is the idyllic coastal town of St-Florent. The afternoon can be spent exploring the port or relaxing by the hotel pool. As always, there is also more riding to be done and today’s optional extra takes you into the hills behind St-Florent on a quiet road linking rural hamlets and several cols.
Day 2: St-Florent to Calvi
Leaving St-Florent, you climb through the geological chaos of the Désert des Agriates – a strikingly different landscape. After a fantastic descent you head inland on a very narrow road taking you through the isolated hamlet of Novella and up to the Col de San-Colombano (694m). The final part is on the old ‘main road’, which traverses the mountainside with big views of the coast to the north.
After Belgodère you join a balcony road that winds its way around the mountainside linking remote villages, while remaining fairly flat for 25km. Eventually, you descend to the historic town of Calvi, hopefully in time to explore the citadel and enjoy the sandy beach.
For challenge riders: today’s first optional extra takes you in search of an even more spectacular view from the Col de Bataille (1096m). At the end of the day the route can also be extended by continuing along the balcony road a bit further to Calenzana.
Day 3: Calvi to Porto
Today’s ride is truly spectacular from the outset, as you head off around the stunning NW coast road, which, despite the fairly rough surface, is a highlight of the island. It leads you into the Col de Palmarella (408m), commanding a great view along the rugged western coastline, which we traverse on a cliff-hugging road for the rest of the day.
Our destination is the idyllic fishing village of Porto. Here you have several options: 1) put the bike to one side and take a boat trip to explore the spectacular and rugged red cliffs of the Calanque di Piana from the sea. 2) Ride up to Piana for lunch and back on a road hewn out of the red cliffs. 3) Continue from Piana on an epic ride over the Col de Lava (491m) and challenging Col de Sevi (1105m).
Day 4: Porto to Corte
Tonight’s destination is the historical capital of Corsica – Corte. Set in the centre of the island, it has a very different atmosphere to our other stops. If you have the energy, it is well worth wandering up to the citadel.
Between Porto and Corte lies the central rib of the island, which is crossed via the Col de Vergio (1477m), the highest road pass on Corsica. Although not high compared to the mighty cols of the Alps or Pyrenees, we are starting at sea level, which makes this a significant challenge! Having said that, the gradients are generally kind and the ever-changing scenery keeps you motivated.
What goes up, must come down and the descent down the Gorges de la Ruda is spectacular.
Here, we split and the Classic route heads over the Col d’Ominanda (654m) to Corte while the Challenge route takes a beautiful detour into the forested heart of the island over the Col Sant’antone (993m).
Day 5: Corte to Solenzara
Today you explore the mountainous interior of the island, which is more populated with goats, pigs and cows than people. We set off over the Col de Bellagranajo (715m) and climb up to a cafe adorned with Corsican charcuterie, which makes a welcome coffee stop.
Next up is the great climb of Col de Sorba (1314m) nestled in the sparse pine forest. Yet another epic descent plunges you into the deep ravine of the Défilé de l’Inzecca and almost back to sea level.
From here there you can either head for the coastal plain and enjoy the only flat road of the week or head back into the hills on an amazing “undulating” road (with opt-outs), linking more remote unspoilt villages.
Whichever route you take, you end up in the fishing port of Solenzara, where we spend our final two nights.
Day 6: Day ride from Solenzara
The Col de Bavella (1218m) is a fitting grand finale to our week on this wonderful island. It has to be one of the most beautiful mountain passes in Europe with its backdrop of rugged granite peaks, which has also made it a Mecca for rock climbers and walkers.
Taking a leisurely lunch on the Col before heading back to the hotel is a good plan, but as always there are options for extending the ride. Descending down to the mountain town of Zonza and then back up the Col de Bavella (1218m) from the west is highly recommended, whilst those wanting an epic final day can continue on another loop into the mountainous interior.
Once all the bikes are packed up, all that is left to do is enjoy a celebratory dinner and final glass of Pietra beer. Happy Days!
Day 7: Departure day
We offer included airport transfers back to Bastia Airport (1hr 30min) at specified times.
We may also be able to drop you at Bastia Port (please contact us).
Full travel advice and airport transfer timings (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.